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The Weekend Binge: "Ultimate Weapon Alice"

Boy meets girl. Boy finds out that girl is a trained killer. Ahhh, yes. Love is in the air. So is teargas and blood splatter. But beyond the bloodshed and the dark humor of Ultimate Weapon Alice lies an unexpectedly sweet tale of friendship, first love, and getting through the worst of high school.

A GwenchaNoona Review | The Weekend Binge: "Ultimate Weapon Alice" (photo of Song Geon-hee and Park Se-wan)

The Plot

Han Gyeo-wool (Park Se-wan) is the newest transfer student at the local high school. She’s bright, she’s pretty, and she's smarter than her peers.

Except that Han Gyeo-wool is actually a trained killer, codenamed "Alice."

Trained as a mercenary from a very young age, Gyeo-wool has had enough of her bloody life abroad and has now returned to Korea to live life as a nondescript high school student. There, she meets Seo Yeo-reum (Song Geon-hee), a troubled young man with his own set of issues. Soon, they strike up an unlikely friendship, and for a while it seems that Gyeo-wool has a solid shot at the normal life she’s always wanted. That is until other mercenaries discover her whereabouts and put everyone she now knows and loves at great risk.

Will Alice be able to defend her newfound life and love from a psychopathic madman, or will she have to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep them all free?

The Review

With only eight 30-minute extremely binge-able episodes, Ultimate Weapon Alice is an intense and unexpectedly addictive watch. The show feels like an action movie that's been stretched over 4 hours — a formula that normally doesn’t bode well for other shows, but for Alice, the stretch absolutely works. With a heady mix of legitimate action scenes, a smattering of really dark humor, a boatload of fun angst, and some very fine chemistry between the two leads, Ultimate Weapon Alice is definitely a gem in the rough that ought to be more popular than it currently is.

Director and writer Lee Byeong-hun (who also wrote 2013’s Be Melodramatic and the 2019 blockbuster comedy Extreme Job) puts his dry humor and sharp eye to full use as he maximizes the charm of both leads in and out of fight scenes. Park Se-wan (I'm Not a Robot) and Song Geon-hee (Snowdrop) are a marvelous pair and are able to carry out the range of scenes quite believably. Though the connection between Gyeo-wool and Yeo-reum is quite odd, it somehow ends up being totally believable and develops into something that's both strange and hilarious.

The trauma these two characters share, as well as their losses, their mismatched responses, and their strange coping mechanisms, can be relatable to anyone who’s had trouble growing up (even we didn’t end up as killers). Their fantasies — imagined “dates” at the library or fictional walks on the beach — provide the necessary comic (and aesthetic) relief from the bloody mess these two Bonnie-and-Clyde figures leave in their wake. It’s also quite refreshing to see a high school drama poke fun at the usual lovey-dovey tropes and the requisite slo-mo sequences, even satirizing them for a good laugh. So is all of this actually true love or just run-of-the-mill trauma bonding? We don’t know and frankly, we’re too entertained to care.

It is to the show’s credit that it pulls off a mighty fine job of offsetting violent scenes with moments of dark humor and teenage normalcy. Though the violence does get quite gratuitous at times, as a whole, Ultimate Weapon Alice is intense, addictive, weirdly charming, and totally binge-able. A true weekend watch, if there ever was one.

Stream if: You enjoy a more action-oriented take on the usual high school romance.

Skip if: Violence and a high body count aren't your thing.

If you like Bonnie-and-Clyde ride-or-die high school romps:

These aren’t your typical cold-boy-falls-for-ordinary girl teen dramas. Take note that many scenes in these dramas can be triggering (violence, self-harm, drugs, and bullying). Proceed with caution.

Extracurricular (2020)

This 2020 Netflix original is the antithesis of everything glossy in k-dramaland. Extracurricular made waves for tackling grittier themes, such as high school students doing sex work for extra income and hustling through poverty. Kim Dong-hee and Park Joo-hyun are terrific as the Bonnie-and-Clyde tandem who look like perfect students by day, but live double lives at night.

Hope or Dope (2022)

Kyung Da-jung is a high school senior by day and her mother’s drug mule at night. But when one drug delivery goes horribly wrong, she tries to escape by running away to a rural village. Her temporary peace is shattered once again when she discovers that the village cultivates marijuana. Da-jung has the network and she knows the risks… but will she be able to pull off new drug deals again?

Better Days (2019, Chinese film)

Derek Tsang’s scathing adaptation of the young adult novel In His Youth, In Her Beauty was nominated for Best International Film Feature at the 93rd Academy Awards. It tells the story of a high school girl whose life has been ruined by relentless bullying and her friendship with a street thug who begins to care for her. The film about ill-fated teenage love went on to earn more than $230M in China and became a pop culture phenomenon in East Asia.

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